You’ve probably been preached to time and again about the dangers of distracted driving. You’re quite familiar with all of the usual suspects – texting while driving, talking on the phone, fiddling with the radio, eating or drinking, and everything else that takes your hands off the wheel and attention off the road.
But most people who have been involved in an accident weren’t exhibiting these types of blatant disregard for safety. There are also some sneaky and surprising ways that you could be distracted while driving – and these are sometimes the most dangerous culprits behind some nasty car accidents. Here are 4 hidden distractions that you may be falling victim to… without even knowing it.
We all love to belt out our favorite tunes while cruising with the windows down (though admittedly, some of us should leave the singing to the professionals). But having your radio turned up not only draws more of your focus to the song you’re singing along with – it also prevents you from being able to hear important sounds around you. The honking of car horns, the blare of an emergency vehicle, the screech of tires… all of these important sounds will be blocked if all you can hear is Justin Bieber.
While taking a road trip through some of nature’s most amazing spots is wonderful, those same beautiful locations can also prove to be quite dangerous. When you take your attention of the road and focus on those snow-capped mountains or that magnificent waterfall instead, you could inadvertently swerve into another lane, or miss a bend in the road, sending you careening off into the abyss… Okay, perhaps that’s slightly dramatic. But paying more attention to your surroundings that to your driving has major consequences for you and for other drivers – so please, put the cellphone camera down and keep your hands on the wheel.
We’re not saying you should sequester yourself in your car, or put duct tape over your passengers’ mouths. But when you find yourself paying more attention to your friends than to the cars around you, the risk for a crash increases by a good margin. As humans, we tend to want to look at someone who is speaking to us, thereby creating the even greater hazard of taking our eyes off of the road ahead of us. But even if you have the willpower of a billy goat and keep your eyes where they belong, the mental concentration that you’re providing to the conversation is enough of a hidden distraction to cause serious danger to yourself, and that friend who simply won’t stop gabbing.
Most people can easily associate distracted driving with extreme anger or sadness, and everyone knows not to get behind the wheel if you’re too emotionally or mentally distracted. However, it is equally as dangerous to be on the roads if your mind is somewhere else, or your inner monologue is constantly going. Maybe you have a long list of things to do at work, which is causing you stress. Perhaps you’re replaying a conversation in your head that you have recently had, or you’re rehearsing your speech for a big proposal you have coming up. Any of these scenarios can be a huge distraction and keep your attention away from the roads.
So, what’s the moral of the story? We’re certainly not telling you that you shouldn’t listen to the radio or talk to your passengers, and we’re not advocating black-out curtains for your windows. But if you’re aware of the risks associated with each of these common behaviors, you’ll likely be more apt to recognize them when they occur, and modify your behavior so as to create a safer defensive driving environment for everyone involved.